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From the Collection of Nineteenth Century Short Stories You Have Studied, Select Three with a Supernatural Theme, and Consider Their Effectiveness Within Their Genre.

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Essay Preview: From the Collection of Nineteenth Century Short Stories You Have Studied, Select Three with a Supernatural Theme, and Consider Their Effectiveness Within Their Genre.

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Short stories started to gain popularity after the industrial revolution; as printing became more widespread it was much easier to get a short story published in a newspaper or magazine. The advantage of a short story over a novel is that it manages to hold the readers attention, as the short story tends to be dramatic, has no need for a sub-plot and are without lengthy description. Where novel writing is complicated, has many different things going on and creates a world of possibilities, short story writing focuses on a quick, powerful impact. As a result of this the reader can focus on the pivotal climax of the short story, as the authors do not need to concern them selves with thinking up unnecessary details. Short stories today remain a popular way to ease yourself into reading and are ideal for readers who get easily bored.

During the nineteenth century there was a strong belief in ghosts and the spiritual world. A good ghost story should contain mystery and should have emphasis on the senses. The atmosphere should be dark, lonely and creepy. If there is a ghost, it should inspire fear in its appearance or intention. However, a ghost story is not a tale of horror or terror; it is not about monsters or Martians, terrifying though these may be. The spirit is usually seen and often recognised, but it may be heard, sensed or even smelt. Another major difference between a 'real' ghost and a fictional one is that the ghost in the story has to have a purpose, whereas few 'true' ghosts do. The ghost may be seeking revenge or retribution for what happened to it in life and the presumption is that, once this is obtained, the haunting will cease. Some ghosts want to alert the living to a secret, point to the real perpetrator of some ghastly crime, or even bring comfort and consolation. The point is that ghost in a story must have a reason for it's haunting, otherwise a ghost story has no real purpose or climax. The ending should leave us slightly puzzled and trying to work out what happened.

Three short stories that contain these elements are 'The Signalman' by Charles Dickens, 'The Withered Arm' by Thomas Hardy and 'Napoleon And The Spectre' by Charlotte BrontÐ"«.

'The Signalman' was written around 1866, when trains were a relatively new form of transport and train crashes may have been more of a common occurrence than they are today. Also, the train would have been the fastest means of transport at that time and it may have seemed very uncontrollable and dangerous to the Victorians. Trains were transforming a society which was moving from the rural to the urban. The theme of the story may have been influenced by Dickens's own involvement in the Staplehurst rail crash<file:///wiki/Staplehurst_rail_crash> on the 9th of June<file:///wiki/9th_June> 1865<file:///wiki/1865>. While passing over a viaduct in Kent, the train on which he was traveling jumped a gap in the line, causing the central and rear carriages to fall onto the riverbed below. Dickens was in the only first-class carriage to survive. The first accident, in the story of 'The Signalman' involves an awful collision between two trains in the tunnel, most likely to be based on The Clayton Tunnel Crash, in 1861, five years before Dickens wrote the story. 'The Signalman' is not a typical ghost story because it is set mainly in the daytime, although it it still effective. Many ghost stories were, and still are set in the past to create a sense of the unknown

Charlotte BrontÐ"«'s 'Napoleon and the spectre' was written in 1833, when Bronte would only have been seventeen. Bronte had an interest in the Emperor of France who at that time was a leading figure in society, a symbol and trademark of France's important position in the world. Napoleon was a gallant and valiant soldier and he supposedly murdered General Pichegru, who is mentioned in the story.

'The Withered Arm' was written in a time where rural superstition was common. This story has a lot of emphasis on superstition and witchly happenings. I feel that is a very insightful story that points out the differences between the upper and working class division at this period of time.

In my opinion, the opening of a short story is one of the most important parts. In a short story, you have a limited time to create an effect in the reader’s mind. The desired effect, must be created in the first couple of paragraphs. The main aim of the opening is to grab the readers attention, and, beyond this, the writer has to arouse our curiosity, so that the story holds our attention, and makes us want to read more. A good opening should raise a dramatic question the readers mind. This ensures that the reader has a solid reason to carry on. Another brilliant technique to grab the readers attention, is to begin 'in medias res', making us feel like the action is happening all around us, This throws the reader into a story without introduction to characters or background, so we want to read on and explore the characters stories.

The opening of 'The Signalman' starts 'in medias res' with the words 'Halloa, below there'. This plunges the reader straight in to the action making them believe that they are there. This short, but effective line is very significant to the plot of the story and a intriguing atmosphere is already created, as it is not clear to the reader as to who is speaking, or to whom they are talking to. As they are repeated it creates a feeling of unease, and we begin to realise that they may be very important words later on. The opening paragraph of the 'The Signalman' is unexplained, leaving the readers questioning. For example when the Narrator is shouting from above, the Signalman behaves strangely as he looks round to face the tunnel, whereas a normal person might look upwards in response to this. Dickens portrayal of the 'black tunnel' that has a 'barbarous, depressing, and forbidding air' to it creates a mood of anticipation. Moreover, the words expressed are so effective that the reader immediately gets an apparent image of the tunnel and feels more involved in the story. It also raises the question as to why the Signalman looked down there. This maintains the curiosity.

'Napoleon and the spectre' begins with the phrase 'Well as I was saying'. This makes it seem as if we are already in the middle of the story and just approaching the action. This is not as effective however, as in 'The Signalman'; as this phrase does not raise any immediate question in our minds, that makes us want to continue reading.




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